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PM warns of ‘immense logistical challenges’ in distributing COVID vaccine

Written by on 02/12/2020

It will take “some months” for the UK’s most vulnerable people to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, the prime minister has said.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Boris Johnson acknowledged there were “immense logistical challenges” in distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was approved for use in the UK earlier today.

“It will inevitably take some months before all the most vulnerable are protected – long, cold months,” he said.

“So it’s all the more vital that as we celebrate this scientific achievement we are not carried away with over-optimism or fall into the naive belief that the struggle is over.”

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UK approves use of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine

He was speaking after the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The jab, which has been given the green light by independent health regulator MHRA, will be rolled out across the UK from early next week.

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Elderly people in care homes and their carers are top of the list to get the vaccine, which studies have shown is 95% effective and works in all age groups.

The government has secured 40 million doses of the COVID-19 jab, which needs to be refrigerated at -70C (-94F).

Ten million are expected to be delivered to the UK by the end of the year, with patients needing two each.

Mr Johnson’s call for patience was echoed by the deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.

“Rollout won’t be instant,” he warned, as he called on people to stick to the current restrictions and general guidance over the coming months.

He also appealed to those on the fence about vaccines, saying: “We need people to take it – this vaccine isn’t going to help you if you don’t take it.”

How COVID-19 vaccines ordered by the UK compare
Image: How the vaccines ordered by the UK compare

Speaking at PMQs earlier, Mr Johnson said the vaccine will in time allow Britons to “reclaim our lives”.

But he warned there will be “logistical challenges” in rolling it out – and cautioned that the breakthrough was “not the end of our national struggle” against coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was unsure how many people would need to be immunised before restrictions can be lifted.

He told the Commons that while it is known that the vaccine protects an individual against the virus, it is not yet clear whether it has an impact on reducing transmission.

The hope is that the prevalence of COVID-19 will decrease as more vulnerable people are vaccinated, paving the way for a relaxation in the rules, the health secretary explained.

Asked by Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth how many NHS staff he expects to be vaccinated by January, Mr Hancock said in his reply that 800,000 doses have passed batch testing.

He added: “The total number that will be manufactured over this time frame is not yet known because it’s all dependent on a manufacturing process which is complicated itself.”

Mr Ashworth offered to “stand alongside” Mr Hancock on “any platform or in any TV studio” to promote take-up of the vaccine.

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Hancock offers to get jab alongside Labour’s Ashworth

The health secretary took up the offer, telling the Commons: “If we can, together, encourage anybody to take a vaccine who may be hesitant, by appearing together and being vaccinated together, then of course I’d be happy to do that.”

Mr Johnson’s press secretary also suggested the PM could have a jab live on TV – but only if it did not prevent someone more in need from getting one.

“We all know the character of the prime minister, I don’t think it would be something that he would rule out,” Allegra Stratton told reporters.

“But what we also know is that he wouldn’t want to take a jab that should be for somebody who is extremely vulnerable, clinically vulnerable, and who should be getting it before him.”

 Sky News

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